After years, if not decades, of staff shortages and decreasing budgets, some places around the country are finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel as their workforce and budgets increase.
While these gains should be recognized and applauded, there is still a long way to go in making sure that police departments across the country receive the support they need to keep their communities safe from the ever-increasing threats we face.
According to Governing magazine, Detroit, Newark, and Philadelphia all experienced particularly large personnel increases over the past few years, ranging from 6-37%.
Not all of these positions are sworn officers. Some are civilian positions that were eliminated after the 2008 recession that have slowly been reinstated as the economy recovered.
Unfortunately, the magazine also found that these increases might come from an increase in population and, thus, an increase in crime that warrants more police protection.
“It probably has more to do with growth in cities than anything,” said Darrel Stephens, who recently retired as director of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association.
Some cities are also seeing police pay increase in an effort to recruit and retain officers. In 2017, San Diego increased wages for its police force by about 30%, an action that was unanimously approved by the city council.
It marked the first time in years that wages for the city’s police force ranked above the average for city employees and showed that the city’s elected officials take the safety of its residents seriously.
“This contract is all about keeping our neighborhoods safe and secure,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer said. “Having more cops on the beat will help strengthen our community policing approach and ensure San Diegans continue to live in one of the safest big cities in the country.”
Police unions also play a role in helping advocate for more support from elected officials. That was the case in San Diego, as police union vice president Jack Schaeffer said during the council hearing where the funding was approved.
“The city is sending the right message to our experienced officers, catching the eye of laterals and recruits we want to attract and giving taxpayers value for their tax dollars,” Schaeffer said. “This agreement creates the foundation for a strong, stable Police Department.”
Earlier this year, the city of Albany, New York, reported that it was looking to add dozens of new officers to its police force in an effort to curb an increase in homicides happening there.
Albany Police Officers Union President Greg McGee says the city needs more officers on the street in order to keep everyone safe, including the officers themselves. He praised the police for the work they’re already doing but said more resources are needed to stop the spread of violent crime on the city’s streets.
“They’re talking about doing a pretty large hiring class, we’ve heard anywhere from 40 to 50 hires, but that’s all dependent on this new [training] building being done and in time,” McGee told Spectrum News.
The International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) has also been successful in negotiating pay increases for police officers and sheriffs deputies. In Saint Lucie County, Florida, the union helped advocate for an average increase of 12% for union members there.
IUPA President Sam Cabral said the raise came as part of ongoing negotiations with county officials, and he was pleased with the outcome for law enforcement officers.
“I applaud the Saint Lucie County Sheriff’s Office leadership in joining us in recognizing the importance of offering competitive wages to the brave men and women of their department,” Cabral said in a statement. “This will ensure better staffing levels, retention, and provide a fair wage for the critical work they do every day.”
Police across the country are grappling with how to do their jobs and how to stay safe when staffing and financial resources are already stretched thin especially during this time of pandemic. Here’s a look at how police are coping, and how you can support their work during this crucial time.